Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Accessories Change Everything

Right now I'm knee-deep in mannequin dressing, which can be one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of my job but also one of the most satisfying. Getting the shape of a garment just right can take a maddening amount of fussy adjustments (the whenyouworkatamusuem blog nailed it with this post). But when you do get it right, the feeling can be euphoric.

I went through the full emotional roller-coaster this week with the 1950s mannequin. For various reasons, she is one of two that can't be pre-dressed and has to be dealt with on-site. I picked one of my favorite suits in the collection-- grey wool with a tightly tailored shape and a beautiful drape of fabric in the back, sold at John Doyle Bishop's, of course. But as my volunteers and I tried to dress it we ran into two major issues.

For one, we just couldn't seem to get the fit right, and she just kept looking top-heavy and lumpy. Second, the suit is dark grey and the accessories I had on the mannequin are all black. Factor in our mannequins' perpetual case of bitchy resting face, and the result was a very sad and dour looking woman.

The label behind her is all about the change in women's roles after WWII, with the headline "After The War Women Ditch Their Overalls…" and this outfit made it look like the end of the sentence was "…FOR WIDOWS WEEDS." 

The first day I worked on her I ran out of time and didn't have any extra accessories, so I had to leave her in distress for a couple of days. 

In the meantime I did a little vintage shopping and raided the fabrics and props in my mannequin supply stash. When the time came, it was clear the right choice was to channel fake Diana Vreeland in Funny Face and...


After a little padding adjustment and some strategically placed accessories, this was the much-improved result: 

So much better, right? I brought LIGHT and LIFE back into this inanimate woman's life!! I hope John would approve…although he probably would have suggested an actual pink blouse rather than a cut-up pillowcase stuffed around the neck. 

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